Monday, January 17, 2011

Black Bugs and Baby Betty

It was downright embarrassing! Perfectly, horribly humiliating.

My neighbor's wireless wasn't working so she popped over to borrow mine. While she was typing on her laptop she kept swishing her hand across her face. Shooing away a small swarm of teensy black bugs.

My sunny window is all abuzz with Fungus Gnats.* I noticed that while taking pictures for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. It's pretty pathetic when flower photos require a touch up ~ to hide the bugs. There is, however, an upside to this dilemma. Betty prefers her dinner while it's still wiggling.

What's that, you say? You're not buying that top picture? 

Want your kids to love gardening?
Buy them a Venus Fly Trap.

Oh, fine. Here's a more realistic pic of baby Betty, the Venus Fly Trap ~ a dainty, mild-mannered, little carnivore ~ who'll live out her days in this old fish bowl. I'm secretly hoping she grows to magnificent proportions (and, sings that outrageous song from the musical,* too!) Though chances are much more likely she'll gobble a bug or two and then kick the bucket.

I love entertaining little kids with this perennial. 
Place a dead bug between her leaves and rub it against the trigger hairs. (An eyebrow tweezer makes a good 'spoon' for feeding Betty.) Her leaves will snap shut on the bug and the kids will go nuts. 

Intent on keeping her alive? 
They're happiest as terrarium plants, in a hot, humid environment, with poor, acidic soil. In the wild, she's quite often submerged and none too sad about the ordeal. 

Tips:
  • Don't, whatever you do, feed her hamburger. (Gives her indigestion.) Don't feed anybody hamburger. Nobody knows for sure what goes into that stuff...
  • Even if she looks dead, she might not be. Fly Traps go dormant in winter for several months. Rejoin the living, come spring.
  • And, while she's two tons of fun, she'll do nothing to eradicate black bug problems.
FUNGUS GNATS
Those pesky black flies die quickly in dry soil. If your houseplants can't cope with a week of drought, try sticking double-sided tape on the flower pots.

* Little Shop of Horrors movie, 1986

15 comments:

KC said...

I'll try the double sided tape. Venus could never eat all the black bugs living in my house:(

Alison said...

My solution for fungus gnats is to water my indoor plants with water that has had a mosquito dunk full of Bt soaking in it. The bacteria kills off the larvae that hatch in and live in the soil, eating the roots of the plant in the pot. Works wonders!

Laurrie said...

What fun! (the plant, not the gnats) I think it would be so entertaining to keep one of these unique plants in my house.

A Garden of Threads said...

Great post, never grown a venus flytrap before.

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

I don't worry about the bugs that appear in the carnivorous plant terrarium too much. The plants usually take care of them for me. I have problems with giving them enough light. But so it is with winter.

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Kate, Your Venus Flytrap looks very healthy. I tried a couple of those (in the classroom and at home) years ago... but didn't have good luck with them.

Where in the world did you get the first photo? It's a riot!

donna said...

Kate, I luv this post. The Coo Coo Kid and I have tried growing Venus Fly Traps twice. They last a few months and then seem done. Now you're telling me they may only be dormant. Only one time were we successful in feeding the VFT and having it snap shut. We were thrilled. Your old fish bowl is gorgeous.

Been missing you....donna

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, KC;
Yeah, I think that's the bane of indoor flowering plants. They'll always be sporting one bug or another....

Fill me in Alison!
I'm liking the idea but I don't know what Bt is...

Did anyone happen to watch CBS Sunday morning last week? Very fun segment on terrariums and how they're making a comeback. I feel you really need one to keep a fly trap alive...

I have missed you, too, Donna.
Hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Big hugs to the Coo Koo kid.

Marguerite said...

I'm extremely lucky I've never had a problem with fungus gnats but that's likely because I consistently forget to water my plants. They have to survive weeks of drought in this house. I quite like the decorations on the fish bowl, your betty has a lovely home.

Rose said...

Betty is one cool-looking plant! Could I borrow her while you're gone? I'm being overrun with these gnats, too. I've tried dishwater with vinegar, and now I've got a piece of banana sitting in a plastic bag, hoping I can trap the little pests and suffocate them.

Kate (daisygirl_io) said...

Very cool! I tried the Venus Fly trap in one of my terrariums, but it didn't do so well. Still, my kids LOVED watching it open and close. :)

montecelery said...

My Montessori community (class) keeps a "pet" spider - just a little house spider (green) who we occasionally find on the floor. We very carefully put her back in the plants, every time - because she's doing a great job on the fungus gnats. Of course, then we occasionally have to dust up the little dead bodies, and put them in the compost, but hey - 3 lessons in one! Can you keep a spider? We'd try a venus fly trap, but I can't find a spot to put a terrarium right now...

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Good girl, Marguerite!
A woman after my own heart. We neglectful gardeners need to stick together. :)

Absolutely, Rose!
Betty should travel around the country just like the for profit managed bee hives do...

Hey, Kate;
Well... she might have just gone dormant. It's frustrating, to me, that the only time they sell these perennials in the stores is right before they're heading into their dormant state.

Hi, Montecelery;
Such a fab idea! But what kind of spider? I've never met a green one...

Li'l Ned said...

OK, despite the fact that I have tried and killed several Venus Fly Traps in the past, I'm going to splurge on a new one and a couple of other fun-loving carnivorous plants from the Logee's catalog. I've managed to keep one hardy (as in tough, not cold-hardy) pitcher plant alive for a couple of years now, by keeping it submerged in a bowl half-filled with rocks. So maybe I'm mature enough now to keep a VFT alive. Thanks for the inspiration.

Re fungus gnats. I seem to be having more trouble with fruit flies in the kitchen compost bucket this winter than with fungus gnats on the house plants. Usually they die off in the fall but for some reason it's mid-January and I still have fruit flies. Dang.